Does Everyone Need a Multivitamin?

The short answer here is… No.  Many of my patients ask me if they should be taking a multivitamin – usually it’s because they’ve heard that a one-a-day can make up for deficiencies in the quality of food that we have access to (think: soil depletion).  Other patients think that if they take a multi, it’s ok for them to eat less veggies and fruits or binge on white foods on the weekends, knowing that their multivitamin will back them up.  I’m sure you can imagine my response to the latter (..I’m not in favour).

To be honest, I’ve rarely met a multivitamin that I like.  And I would dare to say that the multis my patients come in on (think: anything you can buy off of the drug store shelf) aren’t worth the money.  Why is this?  Let me explain.

First, no single tablet or capsule can possibly contain enough of all of the nutrients that you need to make up for a poor diet and/or soil depletion.  There’s only so much that can fit into a capsule, and the majority of over-the-counter multivitamins have very small amounts of any given ingredient.  There’s a reason a naturopathic doctor will prescribe single nutrients, and it’s because if we tried to give a therapeutic dose of nutrients in a multi, you’d end up taking tons of capsules per day.  This is also the reason that if your naturopath does prescribe a multi, it’ll be more expensive than what you can find in the drug store and you’ll be taking it 2-3 times per day.

Second, the majority of commercially produced multivitamins are of poor quality.  When it comes to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and the other therapeutic ingredients in a multivitamin, quality matters!  Your body has a preference for the type of nutrients it absorbs, and will absorb and utilize the correct forms far better than the inferior ones.  For example, many multivitamins contain vitamin B12 in the form of synthetic cyanocobalamin, which has been shown to have inferior absorption and less of an effect on the nervous and muscular systems than the form of B12 called methylcobalamin.

Third, it isn’t just about what your multi is missing, it’s also about what the company who produces it is adding.  Common commercially produced multivitamins contain binding chemicals and additives, either to make the product look more palatable or make it taste better.  Don’t get me started on gummy-vitamins.. are they fooling anyone into thinking these are more than just candy? Why would you want to ingest dyes and chemicals while trying to do something good for your body.  You don’t, so you shouldn’t.

To bring this all together, I want you to remember this when you’re looking to add a supplement to your routine:

Supplements are meant to do exactly as they sound, to supplement a healthy diet and lifestyle.

They’re called supplements, not permanents.  And no pill can replace healthy eating and lifestyle choices.

That being said, for some patients in certain situations, multiple vitamin and mineral supplements are indicated (and can work wonders).  Ask yourself these three questions to find out if a multivitamin is right for you:

  • Do you “fall off the wagon” of your healthy diet more than 20% of the time?
  • Are you unsure of where and how your food is grown and processed?
  • Do you suffer from digestive problems like gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea?

If any of the above sound like you, then you might be a good candidate for a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.  Don’t rush out to the drug store to waste your money; spend some time talking with your naturopathic doctor about the pros and cons of a multi, and take their advice on a good quality product.

In health,

K.

Photo credit.

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